We all agree that our work matters. An important aspect to work is its influence and impact within a local community and culture. I have recently read a short book that is, in my opinion, an excellent treatment of culture engagement and I would like to recommend it for your reading.
The eBook is titled The Voting Booth: A new vision for Christian engagement in a post-Christian culture by Skye Jethani. Jethani is an author, speaker, editor, and pastor.
The purpose of this book is to help Christians explore three different methods to interact with culture and then to recommend one as the best of the three. The book is written in novel format, which I found to be interesting and very readable.
We meet the main character, Christian, on Election Day as he considers his vote. Normally his decision is made many months before voting, but not this year. His struggle is an internal one more so than with the candidates themselves. He understands their respective visions for the country, but he doesn’t know what future he wants and how he should live and vote in a post-Christian culture.
After a brief voting booth prayer, Christian is transported to another place and introduced to three people who want to help him with his decision. The three individuals are named Exodus, Exile, and Incarnation. Each proceeds to dialogue or in some cases debate with Christian to present their view.
Exodus takes the approach that culture is unsafe and Christians can save the culture by withdrawing from it. Exodus cites Benedict of Nursia in his presentation. Benedict led a group of individuals who formed monasteries in response to the Roman Empire’s dominance in society. (This section reminded me of Rod Dreher’s forthcoming book The Benedict Option.)
Exile, by contrast, calls Christian to be “an antibody within your culture by protecting what is good and combating what is evil.” This approach is elsewhere referred to as domination. Exile goes on to present his position with the use of additional metaphors of salt and light. He draws the conclusion that these metaphors “must engage what they were intended to prevent” if they are to be successful. Christians should not simply “combat what is wrong, but also preserve what is good.”
Incarnation presents an approach based on his viewpoint that Exodus and Exile both seek to establish “control over what [they] perceive to be a hostile and dangerous culture.” He cites Romans 8:38-39 as evidence that while the culture may not be safe, Christian is safe. Incarnation goes on to state,
“The Apostle [Paul] was not minimizing or denying the dangers in their culture – he knew them better than most. Instead, he was helping them see their culture through the truth of God’s redeeming love. He was helping them see that fear is an illegitimate motive for those who belong to God, no matter how vexing their culture may be.”
A fundamental element to Incarnation’s argument is his conclusion that Exodus and Exile’s argument was appropriate to another time in history when they were normatively needed. He likens the continued use of their interactions with culture to someone in the present day “employing a horse and carriage on the interstate.” Incarnation has the highest respect for Exodus and Exile, but feels their day has passed and thus a new vision is needed.
I won’t spoil the rest of the book and I definitely encourage you to check it out. I think it is increasingly important for Christians to be able to speak winsomely into their sphere of influence. Books like The Voting Booth show us different alternatives and provide guidance on how to implement these concepts in our daily lives.
I’d welcome your feedback on this book as you read it.